Patent application title: METHOD FOR DRILLING THROUGH NUISANCE HYDROCARBON BEARING FORMATIONS
Donald G. Reitsma (Katy, TX, US)
Ossama R. Sehsah (Katy, TX, US)
Yawan Couturier (Katy, TX, US)
IPC8 Class: AE21B2108FI
Class name: Boring or penetrating the earth with signaling, indicating, testing or measuring measuring or indicating drilling fluid (1) pressure, or (2) rate of flow
Publication date: 2011-11-24
Patent application number: 20110284290
A method for controlling entry of hydrocarbon into a wellbore from a
subsurface formation includes determining whether hydrocarbon is entering
the wellbore. Whether a rate of hydrocarbon entry into the wellbore is
slowing is then determined Control of discharge from the wellbore is then
switched from maintaining a selected wellbore pressure to controlling a
rate of discharge of fluid from the wellbore to be substantially constant
if the hydrocarbon entry rate is slowing. Control of discharge from the
wellbore is returned to maintaining the selected wellbore pressure when
the hydrocarbon stops entering the wellbore.
1. A method for controlling entry of hydrocarbon into a wellbore from a
subsurface formation, comprising: determining whether hydrocarbon is
entering the wellbore; determining whether a rate of hydrocarbon entry
into the wellbore is slowing; switching control of discharge from the
wellbore from maintaining a selected wellbore pressure to controlling a
rate of discharge of fluid from the wellbore to be substantially constant
if the hydrocarbon entry rate is slowing; and returning control of
discharge from the wellbore to maintain the selected wellbore pressure
when hydrocarbon entering the wellbore is at an acceptable level.
2. The method of claim 1 wherein the controlling wellbore pressure and controlling rate of hydrocarbon entry comprises operating a variable orifice choke in a discharge line from the wellbore.
3. The method of claim 1 wherein the determining hydrocarbon entry into the wellbore comprises detecting an increase in volume of drilling fluid stored in a supply/return tank.
4. The method of claim 1 wherein the determining slowing comprises detecting at least one of constant volume and decreasing volume of drilling fluid stored in a supply/return tank.
5. The method of claim 1 wherein the returning control is performed when a variable orifice choke is substantially completely opened.
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
 Priority is claimed form U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/346,151 filed on May 19, 2010.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
 Not applicable.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 1. Field of the Invention
 The invention relates generally to the field of drilling wellbores through subsurface rock formations. More specifically, the invention relates to techniques for safely drilling wellbores through limited volume hydrocarbon-bearing rock formations using dynamic annular pressure control systems.
 2. Background Art
 A drilling system and methods usable with the present invention are described in 7,395,878 issued to Reitsma et al. and incorporated herein by reference. During drilling, particularly in certain offshore formations, small-extent hydrocarbon bearing formations ("nuisance hydrocarbon formations") are encountered. Initially, these hydrocarbon bearing formations may have hydrocarbon pressure in the pore spaces that exceeds the hydrostatic pressure of fluid in the wellbore. However, as hydrocarbon enters the wellbore, such formations lose pressure relatively quickly, because their areal extent is limited. Drilling through such nuisance hydrocarbon requires an optimum method to deplete the hydrocarbon volume and pressure to acceptable levels to continue drilling safely because such nuisance hydrocarbon zones are typically quickly depleted as a result of the release of hydrocarbons into the wellbore. Thus, it is not advisable to increase the density of the drilling fluid, or to use the so-called "Driller's method" of wellbore pressure control, which requires the standpipe pressure (i.e., the drilling fluid pressure as it is pumped into the drill string) to remain constant. The foregoing statements are also applicable to drilling hydrocarbon wells "underbalanced", wherein the wellbore hydrostatic (and hydrodynamic) fluid pressure is maintained below the hydrocarbon fluid pressure in the pore spaces of the hydrocarbon bearing rock formations.
 There is a need for a more efficient technique to drill through nuisance hydrocarbon and/or underbalanced drilling.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 A method for controlling entry of hydrocarbon into a wellbore from a subsurface formation according to one aspect of the invention includes determining whether hydrocarbon is entering the wellbore. Whether a rate of hydrocarbon entry into the wellbore is slowing is then determined Control of discharge from the wellbore is then switched from maintaining a selected wellbore pressure to controlling a rate of discharge of fluid from the wellbore to be substantially constant if the hydrocarbon entry rate is slowing. Control of discharge from the wellbore is returned to maintaining the selected wellbore pressure when the hydrocarbon stops entering the wellbore.
 Other aspects and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following description and the appended claims.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 is an example drilling system using dynamic annular pressure control.
 FIG. 2 is an example drilling system using an alternative embodiment of dynamic annular pressure control.
 FIG. 3 is a flow chart of an example method according to the invention.
 FIG. 1 is a schematic view of a wellbore drilling system having one embodiment of a dynamic annular pressure control (DAPC) system that can be used with some implementations the invention. One such system is described in U.S. Pat. No. 7,395,878 issued to Reitsma et al. and incorporated herein by reference. Various controllers such as a programmable logic controller may be used to automatically operate the various components described below in response to measurements from various sensors described herein, and such controllers are also described in the Reitsma et al. '878 patent. Such components are not shown herein for clarity of the illustrations
 It will be appreciated that a land based or offshore drilling system may have a DAPC system as shown in FIG. 1 using methods according to the invention. The drilling system 100 is shown including a drilling rig 102 that is used to support drilling operations. Many of the components used on the drilling rig 102, such as the kelly, power tongs, slips, draw works and other equipment are not shown separately in the figures for clarity of the illustration. The rig 102 is used to support a drill string 112 used for drilling a wellbore 106 through subsurface formations such as shown as formation 104. As shown in FIG. 1 the wellbore 106 has already been partially drilled, and a protective pipe or casing 108 has been set and cemented 109 into place in part of the drilled portion of the wellbore 106. In the present embodiment, a casing shutoff mechanism, or downhole deployment valve, 110 is optionally installed in the casing 108 to shut off the annulus and effectively act as a valve to shut off the open hole section of the wellbore 106 (the portion of the borehole 106 below the bottom of the casing 108) when a drill bit 120 at the lower end of the drill string 112 is located above the valve 110.
 The drill string 112 supports a bottom hole assembly (BHA) 113 that may include the drill bit 120, an optional mud motor 118, an optional measurement- and logging-while-drilling (MWD/LWD) sensor suite 119 that preferably includes a pressure transducer 116 to determine the annular pressure in the wellbore 106, i.e., the fluid pressure in the annular space 115 between the drill string 112 and the wall of the wellbore 106. The drill string 112 may include a check valve (not shown) to prevent backflow of fluid from the annular space 115 into the interior of the drill string 112 should there be pressure at the surface of the wellbore causing the wellbore pressure to exceed the fluid pressure in the interior of the drill string 112. The MWD/LWD suite 119 preferably includes a telemetry package 122 that is used to transmit pressure data, MWD/LWD sensor data, as well as drilling information to be received at the surface. While FIG. 1 illustrates a BHA 113 utilizing a mud pressure modulation telemetry system, it will be appreciated that other telemetry systems, such as radio frequency (RF), electromagnetic (EM) or drill string transmission systems may be used with the present invention.
 The drilling process requires the use of a drilling fluid 150, which is typically stored in a reservoir 136. The reservoir 136 is in fluid communications with one or more rig mud pumps 138 which pump the drilling fluid 150 through a conduit 140. The conduit 140 is connected to the uppermost segment or "joint" of the drill string 112 that passes through a rotating control head or "rotating BOP" 142. A rotating BOP 142, when activated, forces spherically shaped elastomeric sealing elements to rotate upwardly, closing around the drill string 112 and isolating the fluid pressure in the annulus, but still enabling drill string rotation. Commercially available rotating BOPs, such as those manufactured by National Oilwell Varco, 10000 Richmond Avenue, Houston, Tex. 77042 are capable of isolating annular pressures up to 10,000 psi (68947.6 kPa). The fluid 150 is pumped down through an interior passage in the drill string 112 and the BHA 113 and exits through nozzles or jets in the drill bit 120, whereupon the fluid 150 circulates drill cuttings away from the bit 120 and returns the cuttings upwardly through the annular space 115 between the drill string 112 and the borehole 106 and through the annular space formed between the casing 108 and the drill string 112. The fluid 150 ultimately returns to the Earth's surface and is diverted by the rotating BOP 142 through a diverter 117, through a conduit 124 and various surge tanks and telemetry receiver systems (not shown separately).
 Thereafter the fluid 150 proceeds to what is generally referred to herein as a backpressure system which may consist of a choke 130, a valve 123 and pump pipes and optional pump as shown at 128. The fluid 150 enters the backpressure system through conduit 124, a choke 130 (explained below) and through an optional flowmeter 126.
 The returning fluid 150 flows through a wear resistant, controllable orifice choke 130. It will be appreciated that there exist chokes designed to operate in an environment where the drilling fluid 150 contains substantial drill cuttings and other solids. The choke 130 is preferably one such type and is further capable of operating at variable pressures, variable openings or apertures, and through multiple duty cycles. The fluid 150 exits the choke 130 and flows through the flowmeter 126 (if used) and a valve 5. The fluid 150 can then be processed by an optional degasser 1 and by a series of filters and shaker table 129, designed to remove contaminants, including drill cuttings, from the fluid 150. The fluid 150 is then returned to the reservoir 136.
 A flow loop 119b, may be provided in advance of a three-way valve 125 for conducting fluid 150 directly to the inlet of the backpressure pump 128. Alternatively, the backpressure pump 128 inlet may be provided with fluid from the reservoir through conduit 119a, which is in fluid communication with the trip tank (not shown). The trip tank is normally used on a drilling rig to monitor drilling fluid gains and losses during pipe tripping operations (withdrawing and inserting the full drill string or substantial subset thereof from the borehole). In the invention, the trip tank functionality is preferably maintained. The three-way valve 125 may be used to select loop 119b, conduit 119a or to isolate the backpressure system. While the backpressure pump 128 is capable of utilizing returned fluid to create a backpressure by selection of flow loop 119b, it will be appreciated that the returned fluid could have contaminants that would not have been removed by filter/shaker table 129. In such case, the wear on backpressure pump 128 may be increased. Therefore, the preferred fluid supply for the backpressure pump 128 is conduit 119a to provide reconditioned fluid to the inlet of the backpressure pump 128.
 In operation, the three-way valve 125 would select either conduit 119a or conduit loop 119b, and the backpressure pump 128 may be engaged to ensure sufficient flow passes through the upstream side of the choke 130 to be able to maintain backpressure in the annulus 115, even when there is no drilling fluid flow entering the annulus 115. In the present embodiment, the backpressure pump 128 is capable of providing up to approximately 2200 psi (15168.5 kPa) of pressure; though higher pressure capability pumps may be selected at the discretion of the system designer.
 The ability to provide backpressure is a significant improvement over normal fluid control systems. The pressure at any axial position in the annulus 115 provided by the fluid is a function of its density and the true vertical depth at the axial position, and is generally approximately a linear function. Additives added to the fluid in reservoir 136 may be pumped downhole to eventually change the pressure gradient applied by the fluid 150.
 The system can include a flow meter 152 in conduit 100 to measure the amount of fluid being pumped into the annulus 115. It will be appreciated that by monitoring flow meters 126, 152, and thus the volume pumped by the backpressure pump 128, it is possible to determine the amount of fluid 150 being lost to the formation, or conversely, the amount of formation fluid entering to the borehole 106. Further included in the system is a provision for monitoring borehole pressure conditions and predicting borehole 106 and annulus 115 pressure characteristics.
 FIG. 2 shows an alternative embodiment of the DAPC system. In this embodiment the backpressure pump is not required to maintain sufficient flow through the choke when the flow through the borehole needs to be shut off for any reason. In this embodiment, an additional three-way valve 6 is placed downstream of the drilling rig mud pumps 138 in conduit 140. This additional three way valve 6 allows fluid from the rig mud pumps 138 to be completely diverted from conduit 140 to conduit 7, thus diverting flow from the rig pumps 138 that would otherwise enter the interior passage of the drill string 112 to the discharge line 124 (and thus applying pressure to the annulus 115). By maintaining action of rig pumps 138 and diverting the pumps' 138 output ultimately to the annulus 115, sufficient flow through the choke 130 to control annulus backpressure is ensured.
 It will be appreciated that any embodiment of a system and method according to the invention will typically include a gauge or sensor (146 in both FIGS. 1 and 2) that measures the fluid level in the pit or tank 136. The measured level of fluid in the pit or tank is one input to a method according to the invention. Generally, methods according to the invention use the pit 136 volume gain and/or pit 136 absolute volume as feedback to operate the choke 130 to allow a selected volume of hydrocarbon into the well based on other considerations such as surface pressure and/or casing shoe strength.
 When drilling through a so-called "nuisance" formation, the fluid pressure in the formation is at a maximum when fluid entry into the wellbore 106 first occurs but as hydrocarbon is produced into the wellbore 106, the formation pressure and hydrocarbon flow decreases, causing the pit 136 volume to increase initially but then decrease. When such condition is identified, the DAPC system control operates the choke 130 to control the pressure in the well by only allowing a selected amount of fluid to be discharged from the wellbore annulus 115, such that the discharge flow rate remains essentially constant. As the pressure in the nuisance hydrocarbon reservoir decreases, and less hydrocarbon enters the wellbore, the choke 130 is opened will continue to open until such time as it completely open.
 Referring to FIG. 3, a flow chart of an example method according to the invention will be explained. At 200, hydrocarbon influx into the wellbore is detected. Such influx may be detected by detecting an increase in volume or level of fluid in the pit (136 in FIG. 1). At 202, pressure in the annular space and/or in the drill string, called "standpipe pressure" ("SPP") is maintained using the dynamic annular pressure control system (by operating choke 130 in FIG. 1) and by suitable control of the rig pumps (138 in FIG. 1). At 204, it is determined whether conditions have been met to switch operation of the DAPC system to control the pit volume, i.e., by controlling the discharge rate of fluid from the wellbore annulus. The condition or conditions to be met may be that the desired pit gain has been achieved, that the hydrocarbon influx has reached the surface (normally the case), the fluid influx rate is decreasing (rate of increase in pit volume or level is slowing) indicating pressure depletion, hydrocarbon volume is decreasing after the hydrocarbon reaches surface (normally the case), or the pit level is decreasing (normally the case after the hydrocarbon has reached surface). If the condition has not been met at 204, wellbore pressure is maintained using the DAPC system (loop back to 202). Once the condition has been met at 204, the DAPC system switches to pit volume maintenance control at 206.
 The maximum pit volume is typically maintained constant, at 206. As the pressure in the reservoir depletes, less hydrocarbon enters the wellbore, which is replaced by the drilling fluid in the annular space, so the pit level begins to decrease. This is inefficient for depleting the hydrocarbon in the reservoir because the hydrostatic pressure in the annulus will increase. In such case, the DAPC system may open the choke (130 in FIG. 1) to reduce the fluid pressure in the well annulus (115 in FIG. 1), thus allowing more hydrocarbon to flow. This in turn causes the pit volume to increase. Opening the choke (130 in FIG. 1) to enable increase hydrocarbon entry is performed until the choke is fully opened or the well is at the desired pressure to continue drilling. This can be observed in the flow chart at 208 as querying whether the choke is fully opened or whether the wellbore pressure is at a selected value. If the foregoing conditions are not met, the process loops back to pit volume control at 206. Once the choke is fully opened, or the selected wellbore pressure has been met, the process ends, and the DAPC system may be switched back to maintaining selected bottom hole (or wellbore annulus) pressure.
 While the invention has been described with respect to a limited number of embodiments, those skilled in the art, having benefit of this disclosure, will appreciate that other embodiments can be devised which do not depart from the scope of the invention as disclosed herein. Accordingly, the scope of the invention should be limited only by the attached claims.
Patent applications by Donald G. Reitsma, Katy, TX US
Patent applications by Ossama R. Sehsah, Katy, TX US
Patent applications by Yawan Couturier, Katy, TX US
Patent applications in class Measuring or indicating drilling fluid (1) pressure, or (2) rate of flow
Patent applications in all subclasses Measuring or indicating drilling fluid (1) pressure, or (2) rate of flow